Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Connecticut Democrat needs to page Joseph Ellis

The New York Times has a bombshell of a story about the Democratic candidate for Senator Dodd's seat in Connecticut. Richard Blumenthal, the state's attorney general who has been in the lead by about 20 points over his potential Republican rivals, has made a habit of referring to his time served in Vietnam.
At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”
He shares with audiences how difficult it was to return from Vietnam and face the anger and abuse.
In 2003, he addressed a rally in Bridgeport, where about 100 military families gathered to express support for American troops overseas. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.”

At a 2008 ceremony in front of the Veterans War Memorial Building in Shelton, he praised the audience for paying tribute to troops fighting abroad, noting that America had not always done so.

“I served during the Vietnam era,” he said. “I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”
The only problem is that, well, he just didn't serve in Vietnam.
There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

The deferments allowed Mr. Blumenthal to complete his studies at Harvard; pursue a graduate fellowship in England; serve as a special assistant to The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham; and ultimately take a job in the Nixon White House.

In 1970, with his last deferment in jeopardy, he landed a coveted spot in the Marine Reserve, which virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam. He joined a unit in Washington that conducted drills and other exercises and focused on local projects, like fixing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots drive.

Many politicians have faced questions over their decisions during the Vietnam War, and Mr. Blumenthal, who is seeking the seat being vacated by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, is not alone in staying out of the war.

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

In an interview on Monday, the attorney general said that he had misspoken about his service during the Norwalk event and might have misspoken on other occasions. “My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam,” he said.
Yes, he has such respect for those veterans that he likes to leave the impression that he is one of them.

And when newspapers have printed up his biography touting his military service, he has done nothing to correct the record.
Mr. Blumenthal, 64, is known as a brilliant lawyer who likes to argue cases in court and uses language with power and precision. He is also savvy about the news media and attentive to how he is portrayed in the press.

But the way he speaks about his military service has led to confusion and frequent mischaracterizations of his biography in his home state newspapers. In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam.

The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as “a veteran of the Vietnam War,” and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had “served in the Marines in Vietnam.” On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state’s third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as “a Vietnam veteran.” The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal “was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.”

And the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2000, it said he had “enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft.”

It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.
Although, he has on some occasions made clear in speeches that he didn't serve in Vietnam, there are all sorts of other instances where he definitely uses languages like saying he "returned" from Vietnam. His office has issued a non-denial denial.
"The New York Times story is an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service," Blumenthal's campaign manager, Mindy Myers, said in a statement.

"Unlike many of his peers, Dick Blumenthal voluntarily joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 and served for six months in Parris Island, SC and six years in the reserves. He received no special treatment from anyone."

Previewing a campaign event tomorrow, Myers wrote that "Dick has a long record of standing up for veterans. Tomorrow, veterans will be standing up with Dick."

Blumenthal will hold a news conference tomorrow. He will be flanked by veterans.
Sure, any politician can bring out veterans to stand up with him on a stage. But there is something distinctly slimy about trying to cloak himself in their glory. Democrats gloried in ridiculing George W. Bush for having served in the Air Force Reserve, but at least Bush never tried to imply that he'd actually flown jets in Vietnam.

This whole story is reminiscent of the scandal a few years ago about prominent historian Joseph Ellis who used to regale his classes at Mount Holyoke with his vivid memories from serving as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. When his lies were revealed, he was made to take a year off without pay from teaching. But he returned to the classroom and is still a very popular professor as well as a noted scholar who has written best-selling books on the Founding era. He was last seen in public life writing a column in the Washington Post building up straw men arguments about originalism and knocking down those fabrications.

So lying about your war record doesn't have to destroy a career. But it's a very tough thing to explain away in politics. Blumenthal might well be able to cart around some supportive veterans who served to stand up with him and say that it doesn't matter that he tried to cloak himself with a bit of their valor in order to puff himself up. Whether he can do so in time for the election in November is another matter. Even in Connecticut.

His potential opponents are either Linda McMahon or Rob Simmons. If Simmons wins, as Allahpundit points out, actually enlisted as a private in Vietnam and served there where he won two Bronze Star Medals and rose to being a colonel in the Army Reserve. That would be quite a contrast and a reason for Republican voters to choose Simmons over Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment although she's been doing better in polls against Blumenthal than Simmons.

Given that Blumenthal has been holding double-digit leads against his potential Republican challengers, I would suppose that the Democratic Party will stand behind the guy unless those polls plummet. Do Connecticut voters care that the guy has been lying about his war record? We'll see. I will bet that the party won't care unless the polls tell them otherwise. Though if they do have to get him to step aside, Public Policy Polling argues that there is another Democratic politician in the wings who could hold the seat.

It's funny. This is a seat that Chris Dodd had to retire from the Senate otherwise he was going to be toast in the election. His own sleazy record had so tarnished him in the eyes of his constituents that he chose to retire and clear the way for Blumenthal. Now Dodd is back pushing his deceptive and pernicious financial reform bill. The guy was too sleazy to run for reelection, but the Democrats are happy to have him out there as their leader in a major piece of legislation. Why would the party balk at having a guy on the ticket in Connecticut when all he did was imply he served in Vietnam instead of getting a job working for Katharine Graham in Washington even if he spent some of that time tutoring poor children in Anacostia?

And having an honored member of the Democratic Party in the Senate who has lied about serving in Vietnam is nothing new. After all, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa used to like to tell audiences about his service flying missions in Vietnam. The only problem was that he spent his time serving in the Navy based in Japan ferrying aircraft back and forth to the Philippines for repairs. And he's still in the Senate and has been reelected since his lies were exposed. Why should Blumenthal's lies matter to the Democrats?

16 comments:

khan said...

Why would Democrats care? It didn't stop them from voting for John Kerry.

Bachbone said...

I just googled this topic. Not one link from MediaMatters, HuffPo, DailyKos, CrookandLiars or any of the other far Left blogs. Wapo, NYT, NPR and a CNN blogger have mentioned it. Were Blumenthal a Republican, this would be headline news on all the sites mentioned.

tfhr said...

Betsy,

I'm glad you mentioned Harkin. The Stolen Valor Act needs to be expanded to include criminal charges against people like Harkin and this latest idiot from Connecticut.

Harkin is already in the book but I suppose B.G. Burkett can add another entry in Stolen Valor for Blumenthal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Valor

(Stolen Valor is a must read, by the way.)

mark said...

bachbone,
Huffpost had it this morning (is still there). TPM has it. Two quick checks and you're 0/2.

As scummy as Blumenthal is, he's not in the same league as war profiteers such as Halliburton, or Sean Hannity, who siphons money meant to help troops into his already large pockets. I know you folks just chaulk it up to "capitalism". I suppose if Blumenthal had turned a buck from lying about his military service, some of you would admire him.

According to its 2006 tax returns, Freedom Alliance reported revenue of $10,822,785, but only $397,900–or a beyond-measly 3.68%–of that was given to the children of fallen troops as scholarships or as aid to severely injured soldiers.

On the other hand, 62% of the money went to “expenses,” including $979,485 for “consultants” and an “advisor.” Yes, consultant/advisors got more than double what injured troops and the kids of fallen troops got. The tax forms show that “New World Aviation” got paid $60,601 for “air travel.” Was that for Hannity’s G5? Like I said, neither the charity nor Hannity is talking. And finally, that year, Freedom Alliance spent $1,730,816 on postage and shipping and $1,414,215 on printing, for a total of $3,145,031, nearly half the revenue the charity spent that year and about eight times what the injured troops and the children of fallen ones received.

Ron K said...

maybe that's why Kerry will not release his military records, he's a biggest cheat as the rest.

Pat Patterson said...

Does mark mean only to castigate those 'war profiteers" before 2007 or only the ones that have received contracts from a Democratic congress? mark may also want to check about Halliburton as, according to OpenSecrets they have given a total of $0 to politicians since the election of 2000.

Also this link to Freedom Alliance might just clear up the charges of overspending by them on overhead.

http://www.freedomalliance.org/images/pdf_and_largepics/freedom_alliance_response.pdf

I don't really know why mark even brought these rumors up as they have nothing to do with Blumenthal other than to try to diminish his leaving false impressions of his military career and an outright lie. Maybe mark is essentially saying that Blumenthal should be forgiven as they started it?

Pat Patterson said...

In addition it doesn't appear that the first mention of the Blumenthal story was until 12:16 pm nealy 2 and 1/2 hours after Bachbone checked.

mark said...

Whenever you can't defend something, just accuse me or others of straying off the topic.

The connection is scumbags who take advantage of our military. Sean Hannity has donated a miniscule amount of money raised for scholarships. Besides taking shortcuts on services (I don't care how good tfhr's ham samwich was), Halliburton and others have been accused and investigated for overcharging. Their game is to sell off subsidiaries so they can avoid responsibility. If you really cared about our military, you would go beyond a few pathetic dems and go after anyone (regardless of party or connections). But please, keep believing the explanation of Freedom Alliance. Why would an organization accused of taking money meant for soldiers for personal comforts lie about their expenses? Amazing how gullible you folks are when you choose to be.

Again:
In fact, less than 20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively–of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses, including consultants and apparently to ferry the Hannity posse of family and friends in high style. And, despite Hannity’s statements to the contrary on his nationally syndicated radio show, few of the children of fallen soldiers got more than $1,000-$2,000, with apparently none getting more than $6,000, while Freedom Alliance appears to have spent tens of thousands of dollars for private planes. Moreover, despite written assurances to donors that all money raised would go directly to scholarships for kids of the fallen heroes and not to expenses, has begun charging expenses of nearly $500,000 to give out just over $800,000 in scholarships.

bobdog said...

Blumenthal had better not get on an elevator alone with real Vietnam veterans, like Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.

They'll whip his butt and leave him whimpering in the corner like a girl. They'll teach him a lesson about post-traumatic stress, I'll betcha.

Pat Patterson said...

Still off topic and no way to verify those numbers. mark you can do better than that please don't emulate TV's casual use of citations.

tfhr said...

mark,

I haven't looked at the accusations heaped on the Freedom Alliance yet, but I will.

You said this:

"Halliburton and others have been accused and investigated for overcharging"

To which I ask you to include the outcome of the investigation. Well? Has the Obama Administration pursued these accusations in court? If not, why not? Could it be that the investigations did not substantiate the accusations? Perhaps Obama's people are too busy creating smokescreens of their own to spend time fanning yours around.

As for the "ham sandwich" comment, I can't speak to the quality of sandwiches like that. I worked nights so I only had dinner or breakfasts and never went to the fast food lines. So, no ham sandwiches. The steak was great. I liked the crab legs too. But what really surprised me was the quality of the vegetables and fruit on any given day, to say nothing of the extraordinary efforts put forth on special meals like Easter, etc, all in the middle of al Anbar province. The logistics involved in that is unimaginable for you, I'm sure, but what impressed me was the obvious pride the food service workers put into bringing us the best possible food, day in and day out.

I'm used to your small-minded pettiness but I am very sorry if my personal observations about the quality of the food service upsets you. I don't know why it would but I guess having your personal delusions challenged is worse for you than knowing that we were well taken care of in Iraq.

Anyway, maybe you could drop Blumenthal a line and ask him how the chow was in Vietnam. I can ask my dad for you or my neighbor across the street. Maybe you know a Vietnam veteran - personally - maybe you should ask them what they think of guys like Blumenthal and Harkin. Maybe they could even help you with whatever it is that has led you down the sorry road you're on.

mark said...

tfhr,
Of course I don't begrudge our military being well-fed. I was mocking your simplified (lack of)reasoning that because your food was tasty, the soldiers who brought suit for contamininated water, rotten food, and poisoned air (from burn pits) were lying. Kinda like a Toyota driver claiming that because his car was fine, the people who crashed because of defective parts were just lousy drivers.
Without knowing the facts, you've taken the side of contracters against your fellow soldiers every time. Please explain why that is?
As I've posted repeatedly, Halliburton and other contractors have acknowledged overbilling. They get caught and allowed to pay it back. Guess it would be a sweet deal for all thieves if, when caught, they can return the stolen goods and call it even.

Pat Patterson said...

Still tapdancing. What lawsuit have been brought and in what courts? It's been a few years so what happened to these cases as I'm sure that there would have been at least one verdict? Plus since when is the theft of property the same as a disagreement over the manner a contract should be carried out.

But it is fairly obvious, even according to Rep Waxman that much of this waste is not due to the contractors but rather the DOD, USAID and the GSA not doing there jobs. But then that wouldn't be any fun considering that Waxman dropped the investigation because he simply couldn't prove any criminal activity and he was hardly likely to blame congressional oversight for the rampant spending.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-02-15-iraq-reconstruction_x.htm

Ron K said...

"The steak was great. I liked the crab legs too. But what really surprised me was the quality of the vegetables and fruit on any given day, to say nothing of the extraordinary efforts put forth on special meals like Easter, etc, all in the middle of al Anbar province"

guess Army food has improved a lot in recent years, one of the few times I ate in an Army dining hall, they had steak(they had a visiting dignitary on the post), if you could find the meat you need a saw to cut it.

Pat Patterson said...

But guys at FOBs are lucky to have even MREs. Often having to buy local food as the military sometimes decides that resupply for a squad is simply not cost effective nor safe. i know of one case where a local farmer would sell a group of Marines vegetables and a lamb once in a while. But he was able to take payment via his satellite phone to verify a charge card.

tfhr said...

Ron K,

It really has changed that much - you wouldn't believe it.

Pat Patterson,

Everywhere I've ever been troops are usually ready to trade MREs for just about anything, particularly if they've been eating them for a while. They are better than they used to be but monotony is monotony and it doesn't get better when it's served cold in a foil pouch. Now lamb on the grill, that does sound tasty.